In any dire situation, most of us would know what to do. Fight or flight would kick in, and you’d try everything to survive. Yet, I’m not so sure how I would react to being swallowed by a gargantuan whale. How on earth would you escape this colossal prison? This is the issue you face in Gutwhale! Monsters everywhere, a limited ammo supply, plenty of weird hats and a falling van. It doesn’t get much stranger.
Developed by Stuffed Wombat and published by Ratalaika Games, this is a 2D pixel shooter that takes place in a confined space. Claustrophobia kicks in and there is a sense of urgency as you try to work your way downward, or upward out of this beast’s belly.
Gutwhale is weird from start to finish.
No matter which way you look at it, Gutwhale is odd as hell. There isn’t a story, and you don’t know how you got in the whale’s stomach. Stranger still, it has its own wardrobe full of bizarre hats. This isn’t the best of it though! Death is bad enough, and painfully it’s all but guaranteed. But to make things worse, each time you die you are squashed by a falling van.
I gave up trying to make sense of the situation and got into the swing of things instead. The concept is brilliantly simple; you have one bullet and multiple enemies to take down. Once you’ve fired your gun, you must retrieve the bullet and shoot again. Kill everything in sight, drop down the levels, and complete each of the three chapters. This is Gutwhale in a nutshell, it’s simple, but its gameplay has some complexities to it.
Each of the hats has special abilities. Some increase health, others sporting abilities, and one multiplies your points you collect. Whichever one you choose, the gameplay doesn’t alter. Avoid your enemies, take them all down and try to get to the end.
Rogue-like elements make it super addictive.
Death doesn’t just mean the end of your run, it also means the loss of all your stuff. Rogue-like elements are back to haunt us, and this time they work well with the theme of the game. Losing everything you have worked towards is heartbreaking, but each playthrough is so short that this usually painful element makes this super addictive.
With procedurally generated stages and tight spaces to work with, you will die….. lots! It matters not, though, as you experiment with different loadouts, purchase new upgrades at the end of each chapter, and rip through each monster you face.
You’ll encounter floating skulls, pink blobs, frogs, spinning star-like shapes and more. You must learn their methods of attack and make a strategy to avoid them. It’s madness, will make you confused, but you’ll have fun, mostly.
Gutwhale’s graphics leave a lot to be desired.
I’m not a gamer who needs highly polished graphics, but the low detail in Gutwhale makes it tough to differentiate between the scenery and your enemies. This caused problems where you were struck by unseen projectiles or got stuck on the scenery. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it’s something you’ll experience more than once. Other than this, you’ll see some variety in the character models and the backdrop which helps to prevent a repetitive feel to the gameplay.
To make things weirder, Stuffed Wombat used an odd soundtrack to accompany its strange theme. Its upbeat tempo and selection of songs were repetitive and almost hypnotic. I probably shouldn’t have expected anything different considering the theme. It was therefore a little disappointing when basic and almost boring sound effects accompanied every action. I felt cheated on and wanted it to be ridiculously absurd. Instead, it was very run of the mill, sadly.
Straightforward and responsive controls.
The gameplay itself has tricky elements, mainly because of the tight spaces and the way the enemies move. But one area that works well is the responsive controls. A simple layout makes learning the fundamentals an easy job, and each action is completed when needed. The only downside is you have no one else to blame when you die.
There are claims in the developers’ notes that there is an unlimited survival mode. This allows continuous play with a leaderboard to monitor scores. Now, I have completed the game, and I have failed to find this. So from my viewpoint, there was little replay value once you completed it, but if this mode magically appears then the desire to return will increase vastly.
Gutwhale is weird and does everything right.
Gutwhale is so weird that I had to love it. Its plot or lack of it makes no sense. The short gameplay and rogue-like elements make this addictive to play, that is until you finish it. I really enjoyed it and recommend you buy it here! Choose your hat and descend into the belly of the beast.